A small but growing core of students is looking to make Georgetown an incubator for big ideas.

The group of 15 undergraduates at the helm of HoyaInnovation are hoping to transform students’ visions into tangible change at the university.

“We all agree that students at Georgetown have lots of ideas and, yet, I don’t think we have a culture that cultivates executing those,” HoyaInnovation member Jamil Poonja (COL ’12) said.  “We don’t act on them.”

The group plays a middleman role, offering students who want change on the Hilltop a gateway to the administrators, alumni or financial backers who can help them make it happen.

“If you are a student and you have an idea, you don’t necessarily know where to go,” core team member José Arredondo (MSB ’11) said. “I see us almost as a medium or a channel. It is like this link between the students, the community, the university, the alumni and the D.C. area.”

Michael Wang (MSB ’07), special assistant to Christopher Augostini — the university’s vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer — works closely with HoyaInnovation. Wang said the group is selecting alumni from successful enterprises, such as Google, Goldman Sachs and ZipCar, to serve on its board of directors.

Prominent alum Tim O’Shaughnessy (MSB ’04), chief executive officer and co-founder of the social buying website LivingSocial, offered his support for HoyaInnovation in an infomercial that ran at halftime during the men’s basketball matchup against Syracuse.

The core team consults regularly with faculty from the McDonough School of Business and plans to bring a wider pool of professors and alums into the fold.

From mobilizing students to serve the off-campus community to assisting students in obtaining more value for their used books, HoyaInnovation is looking to help students tackle various challenges, according to

Poonja.

The team is also working to enhance the international experience at Georgetown. Members want to establish a firmer connection among students who studied abroad in a particular location, students interested in travelling there, faculty that work in the region and students who are natives of the area.

In an attempt to inspire dialogue about technology around campus, HoyaInnovation became a co-sponsor of TEDxGeorgetown. This series of 18-minute talks on the transformative power of the Internet tomorrow will feature professors, students and alumni, including the group of alums who founded the successful local business Sweetgreen.

A VIP reception held by HoyaInnovation after the event will offer students the chance to exchange innovative ideas on technology with the speakers.

The group is working toward creating an interactive website, tailored specifically to the university, to further increase the scope of idea exchange. The website will be connected to social networks, allowing students to submit posts from Facebook or Twitter accounts.

By launching a mobile platform, the group hopes to increase the ease with which students can share their thoughts. Those interested can text idea proposals to the number 82257 and receive messages from HoyaInnovation in return.

“Our goal is to promote a culture of innovation, where people aren’t afraid to think big about changes they want to make to Georgetown or changes they want to make in the community,” member James Li (MSB ’13) said.

Li is leading the arrangement of a Georgetown ThinkLab, gathering 30 to 40 students to join in a three-hour long brainstorming session. Participants will share their thoughts and solutions to a specific campus problem or issue.

Poonja and fellow team member Jose Madrid (COL ’14) are also introducing a roundtable discussion powered by young voices as part of a project inspired by President Obama’s call in February for 100 student-led talks to occur at colleges across the nation.

“We see this as an opportunity to focus on a few issues and an opportunity to have the White House involved in the discussion,” said Poonja.

The roundtable will offer 15 students the chance to discuss relevant university-based topics with a to-be-determined senior U.S. government official.

Madrid said that, though HoyaInnovation is still evolving to suit the needs of its audience, he believes the organization will make a long-term impact on the future of Georgetown.

“HoyaInnovation’s spirit is going beyond the everyday things and doing more,” he said. “It is bringing out the best in people and the community.”

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